There are a lot of things to see and to do in Jerusalem, especially if you are a tourist. There are some major attractions, but if you want to get the most out of your visit then you need to plan accordingly.
One of the best ways to see and to learn about the city is by taking a guided tour. These are usually available through your hotel or a local tour company.
1. Al Aqsa Mosque
The Al Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. It is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is off-limits to non-Muslims and was built over the site of the Temple Mount, or Al Haram Ash Sharif (the holiest place in Jerusalem for Jews).
The mosque is regarded by Muslims as the site where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was taken on a miraculous journey by an angel, Buraq, who carried him to heaven. This was the last stop of his Isra journey from Mecca to the Holy Land.
Since 1967 Israel, which seized the eastern section of Jerusalem, including the Old City, has nominally recognized the historical and religious significance of the site for Muslims. But it has continued to control entry and has attempted to undermine the internationally recognised Status Quo.
2. Mahane Yehuda Market
An intoxicating fusion of colors, scents and sounds, Mahane Yehuda Market is Jerusalem's largest outdoor market. Its stalls sell everything from fresh produce to bread and babka, and in recent years it has become a hub for top chef street food restaurants.
It is a great place to discover and share new foods, flavors and aromas. You can explore the market independently or join a tasting tour, where you'll get vouchers for each destination to try their famous delicacies.
The market is also a major center of social interaction between the city's two main Jewish communities. While the northern part of the market is predominantly a traditional-type bastot selling fresh fruit and vegetables, at its southern end it has developed into a bustling shopping and nightlife hub.
3. The Western Wall
The Western Wall is one of the most sacred sites on earth to millions of people of Jewish faith. Its proximity to the Temple Mount, where the holy ark was kept, has made it a focal point of pilgrimage and prayer for centuries.
This is the only remaining retaining wall of the original Second Temple. It was constructed by King Herod before the time of Jesus as part of a project to retain and support his Temple Mount compound.
The wall is divided into four sections, with 46 layers of stone spanning the 488-meter (1.6 miles) length of it. Some of these are subterranean, while others are exposed above ground. At the south end of the wall, archaeologists uncovered spectacular remains during excavations since 1967.
4. Church of the Holy Sepulcher
One of the most important and revered sites in Christianity, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a must-visit on any trip to Jerusalem. Built on the site of Calvary (Golgotha) and the tomb of Jesus, it is a humbling experience to enter this sacred site.
The narthex is lined with stained-glass windows, each depicting a Christian saint or holy man. Gold incense holders and carved niches line the walls of this beautiful basilica.
At the entrance, a marble pillar contains graffiti from pilgrims who visited the site hundreds of years ago. The Stone of Anointing, a reddish slab with oil lamps hanging from it, is believed to be where Jesus was prepared for burial. The tomb itself is housed in an Edicule, a small chapel with two rooms - one for the Angel's Stone and the other for the tomb of Christ.
5. Israel Museum
The Israel Museum is among the world's largest encyclopedic museums, featuring archaeological and religious artifacts from across the Holy Land. It houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, a 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period and other important finds from the Bible.
It also has a fine collection of Judaica. It is a popular place to shop for Jewish gifts and souvenirs, such as beautiful sterling silver jewelry.
The Israel Museum has reshaped its collection since its reopening in 2010. Its archaeological exhibitions reach from prehistoric relics to the Islamic Middle Ages, while its historical survey of art reflects a diverse range of artistic movements.